“If I couldn’t see people’s reactions to this stuff, it wouldn’t be half as fun to make,” says Brandon Wiard. Reviewing Wiard’s resume, one would be understandably flabbergasted (and blushing a bit) to hear his latest production—a zinging, expansive double album that’s an errant, erotic, and yet, impressively eclectic odyssey into rap and r&b jams, a.k.a. BUFFAY.
But Wiard comes from (and still inhabits) rock n roll sensibilities. At 30, the YpsiArbor-born Ann Arbor-ite has been producing local bands for almost five years (his recording studio’s currently set up in the market of his family’s orchard in Ypsilanti). He spent his youth appreciating early pop and classy r&b acts like the Everly Brothers and the Platters, growing into teenage days of dissecting the sonic dynamism of Bowie and the Pixies, then maturing into his early 20’s writing songs and playing in bands, and now establishing his own recording studio where he applies his self-taught engineering skills.
“BUFFAY is my Mister Hyde,” Wiard said of his ultra-sassy/ultra-lascivious/deep-funk dunking/r&b rolling/fiercely funny-rapping alter-ego. BUFFAY started as a half-joke that grew into the kaleidoscope-culmination of Wiard’s wide musical arc: “I love all music,” said Wiard, “I was big into pop and top-40, but also coming up in the 80s, there’s rap, hip/hop, r&b. “I had this deep love and appreciation for all of the crazy r&b and rap, and also the sincere, heart-on-your-sleeve, Boyz-2-Men kinda stuff.” BUFFAY, he said, “just creeps out of me.”
Between ’00-’05, Wiard was ably pursuing the pop/rock avenue – most notably through solo writing/performing and with Brandon Wiard and the Saviors. Around 2005, he “started putting the gear together.” Wiard had always been fascinated with sound but his niche was production more than engineering. Wiard undertook to teach himself. “I was curious about the experience of the engineer. I found every interesting book I could about engineering, noting common approaches, common microphones, EQ frequencies…”
Wiard got his studio started from his home, often with cords running through the living room, while accommodating early clients by setting up his own “clunky, not-so-horrible Pro Tools” in bands’ spaces. In ’06, he and his wife moved to the east side of Ann Arbor (and, into that house, so went the studio). After that, he found space below The Ann Arbor Music Center (where he finally could get loud). After that, Pretty Suite settled at Wiard’s Orchards in Ypsilanti, gutting out the orchard market’s meat counter and setting equipment on bakery carts.
Through five years and four transitions, Wiard continued recording local rock acts, expanding his capability and comfort as an engineer. “I just need to shake off the outside world,” Wiard said, upon starting a new day in the studio.
With BUFFAY, Wiard (and several collaborators) have spent the winter recording a double-album debut All You Can Eat. The lyrics are lewd but often barbed with brow-raising, satirical word-play. The music is downright indelible, blending orchestral elements (strings, brass) with more rock flavored electric guitars, without any samples (diverting from traditional hip/hop formats).
BUFFAY blends rap and rock with eclectic spices from spacey synthesizers, stately strings and boisterous brass. And yes, it is quite provocative, to put it lightly. “I’m excited to finish it,” Wiard said in December, “and have it ready for general consumption.”Look for All You Can Eat this Spring. www.myspace.com/buffay.